§ Lord Sandhurst
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, in requiring British Airways to give up slots at Heathrow as a condition of the proposed merger with American Airlines, took account of the likely impact on services to Jersey, if British Airways should recover some of the lost longer distance slots by taking them from services being operated within the British Isles.
§ Lord Fraser of Carmyllie
My right honourable friend, the President of the Board of Trade announced on 6 December last year that unless suitable undertakings are given by British Airways and American Airlines to address the competition concerns raised by their proposed alliance he intends to refer the case to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. He asked the Director-General of Fair Trading to explore whether such undertakings could be obtained and interested third parties were invited to comment on his proposals. The Director-General of Fair Trading is currently considering further advice to my right honourable friend in the light of those comments and his negotiations with the alliance partners. On receipt of that advice, my right honourable friend will consider the competition case further.
The proposed undertakings announced on 6 December included a requirement that the alliance should make available slots at Heathrow at times suitable for competing United Kingdom/United States transatlantic services. Any consequent adjustments to their use of slots would however be a commercial matter for the companies themselves.
The Department of Transport has lead responsibility on United Kingdom policy regarding the regulation of take-off and landing slots. The Government accept that take-off and landing slots at Heathrow are in scarce supply but consider that it is for individual airlines to determine which routes should be served using the slots available. Airlines must be free to respond quickly to changes in the market in order to remain competitive. As a result, the Government do not consider it appropriate to ring-fence airports slots for particular services, as this would distort the aviation market and impose limitations on airlines.